Finding Gratitude and Grace

by Will Busch

Though my memories of Haywood Street are filled with countless memories and individuals, there are 4 individuals who, in particular, shaped me as a human in ways I cannot describe. Those 4 individuals are Kristy and Jay, Kenneth, and Derek. Kristy and Jay were the first table I ever had the pleasure of waiting on, and their nonstop orders came with a sense of jokes and laughter shared for time to come. I knew every time I laid eyes upon them, there was going to be a finger on my chest asking, “What’s that?” followed by a bop on the nose after inevitably looking down and laughter to ensue.

I will never forget the first time I met Kenneth and he so graciously let me sit with him and talk about life as he was enjoying his biscuits and gravy. During this time, he gave me the nickname “coach” (due to me having majored in Sport Management and my continual work with youth). When my time as a companion came to an end, it was filled with a warm embrace, a tearful goodbye, and I left knowing my life was better for knowing Kenneth.

The final individual is one who means the world to me, and people always knew when we were together because our time together was filled with laughter that could be heard throughout the whole dining hall or church. No matter where we were, we knew laughs would be shared, deep conversation about God would be had, and I knew Derek would impart to me words of wisdom that allowed the light of the holy spirit inside my body to rage with the winds and shine brighter than ever.

As stated, from my first time stepping on the grounds as a companion, I was filled with an instant amount of love and gratitude. I came in nervous, not knowing what to expect, I myself have grown up in financial stability, went to a Charter school, went to a 4-year University where housing and food was never a worry, followed by living and working in the Summer Camp world, isolated from much of the problems going on in the world.

I was stepping into new territory, I would be engaging in life and meals with folks whom society as outcasted as “dangerous” or “less than.” However, when I stepped through those doors, I realized that it was society who had it backward. It was society who had built a fence around Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) to protect themselves from him, but truth be told, God is ever present and celebrating life with Lazarus and the Haywood Street Community. I have had the great privilege to bring folks I worked alongside with, youth I lead, and many others to Haywood Street. Similar to myself, they came in with a little nerves, not knowing what to expect, but like myself and most that I talked to, even in the small timeframe of one meal and one church service, they left renewed, rejuvenated, and with a lens to experience life the way God intended for us to experience it.

Spending time at Haywood Street and at the margins reminded me just how correct Father Greg’s Boyle of Homeboy Industries words were when he stated, “We don’t go to the margins to make a difference, however we go so that we may be made different.” The friendships from Haywood Street have taught me that there is power in healing, there is power in listening, and there is power in sitting at the table looking your neighbor in the eye and loving them with no agenda. My friends at Haywood Street have opened my eyes to the wonders of the world, the ability to live with abundant gratitude and grace. My friends at Haywood Street have made me into a better person and for that I am eternally grateful. So if anyone is thinking about entering the beauty that is Haywood Street I encourage you to listen to these words by Father Greg Boyle:

“Close both eyes; see with the other one. Then, we are no longer saddened by the burden of our persistent judgements, our ceaseless withholding, our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves, quite unexpectedly in a new, expansive location, in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love. We’ve wandered into God’s own “jurisdiction.”